I was the youngest of three children raised by a single dad. I’m sure it was tough for him, but he didn’t act like it around us. I can see now how wise that decision of his was. He had many difficulties of his own, but he made sure he remained an example of our heavenly Father so we would feel safe and secure.
And so, as a child, I had immense love and respect for him. He was my dad, and I would do whatever I could to please him if it would get me just one more minute with him.
But as happens, I grew older. Passing through my preteen and early teen years was rough. I felt as though I had to pull away from him, as that was what kids did at that age. All my friends were distancing themselves from their parents, and I felt compelled to follow suit. I’m sure it’s not easy for parents to watch their kids drift away, but I refused to see that back then.
I grew older still, and we grew even further apart. When I got mixed up with the wrong crowd and got into delinquency and drugs, I pushed my dad out completely, not wanting to face retribution for my poor decisions. He might have understood part of what was going on, but I didn’t. I was blind to how my actions hurt him, and I couldn’t see that he wanted to see me make something of myself simply because he loved me. That was a concept beyond my years. All I could see was the world immediately around me, selfish people doing selfish things, and I thought he was one of them.
Things got even worse, and eventually I got into trouble with the law for an act of sheer stupidity. But rather than admit where I had gone wrong, I let these things turn into resentment toward my dad. Every step he took to try and help me see how I was messing up my life was perceived by me as another step to control me.
When I was 17 and the last of his children still living with him, we had a falling out and I moved out. He tried to help me see the road I was headed down, but I was determined to hang on to my pride and be master of my own destiny. No one but me would make decisions about how I was going to live.
I moved in with some friends and continued further down the road I was following. If I had thought things were bad before then, it was clear that my life was now like a car careening downhill. In the months that followed, I got into some very troubling relationships, often didn’t have food to eat, found out the true value of my “friends” when they attempted to take advantage of me in drug deals, and narrowly escaped jail. I finally saw that if I didn’t slam on the brakes soon, I was headed for a big crash.
In that time of desperation, about to hit bottom, I turned to Jesus. When I did, He helped me begin to see how blind I had been for years. I had pushed away a person who loved me dearly and only wanted to help me out of love.
I made amends with my father, and I am now able to look back on those dark experiences and actually be thankful for them, in part because they gave me a much deeper respect and love for my dad. Through his example, I learned to appreciate those who lay down their lives for others, simply because of love. It was that appreciation that led me, at age 19, to dedicate my life to serving God and others. Five years later, I’m still finding new reasons to be thankful for a dad who cared so much for someone who cared so little for him. I couldn’t see it then, but now I see.
In the parable that Jesus told about the prodigal son,1 do you remember how the father acted when the boy returned home? Did he run up and sniff his breath to see if he had been drinking? Did he comment on how poorly he had cared for his clothes? Did he criticize his straggly hair and dirty fingernails? Did he inquire about the balance left in his checking account? Of course not. He hugged the boy—the hug of loving acceptance.—Dr. Bob Pedrick
1 John 4:8 ESV / Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
1 John 3:18 ESV / Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
John 15:13 ESV / Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.